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Moses 40 years with Jethro
— God's Priest of Midian —
 
Moses'
father-in-law, the 'Priest of Midian', is referred to in the Hebrew Bible as 'his excellence' (Jethro) and as the 'friend of God' (Reu-El). Used interchangeably, these names describe an exceptional person whose influence on Moses has long been underestimated.
 
Jethro's
influential relationship is indicated in the Bible's record as –
• 
A person before whom Moses prostrates himself in greeting (Ex.18:7);
• 
A non-Israelite who leads the leaders of Israel in their worship of God at Sinai (Ex.18:12);
• 
A non-Israelite who completely restructures Israel's administration by his wise counsel (Ex.18:17-26).
 
 
This is the man with whom Moses had spent forty years, from age 40 to age 80, and whose permission he first obtained before his return to Egypt to carry out God's instruction.
 
Remember,
forty years before Israel's Exodus, Moses had put himself into voluntary exile from Egypt – rather than side with Pharaoh against his birth people.
 
 
As the dominant regional power, most of Egypt's neighbours were not a place to flee to, so he journeyed further on to Midian. The Bible describes Moses' choice in these words –
"Having become great ['megas'], Moses by faith refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter,
...By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
"
Hebrews 11:24-27.
However,
forty years later an 80-year-old Moses returns to Egypt, equipped with more than the royal education its wise men had endowed him or its military disciplines had imparted before his departure.
 
Even though
his burning-bush experience of God in Sinai had commissioned him, Moses' great respect for his priestly father-in-law in MIdian meant that he still needed his blessing to go:
"Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him,
'Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive'.
And Jethro said to Moses, 'Go in peace'.
And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, 'Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead'."

Exodus 4:18-19.
Remember,
it is from within this Jethro-context of Moses' life that God commissioned him to lead Israel –
"Moses kept the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian ...And he came to the mountain of God, to Horeb [in Sinai]."
Exodus 3:1.
 
This commissioning context is very important even though Moses is returning to do what he felt called to do in Egypt those forty years before (Acts 7:25).
 
Apart
from Jethro's priestly example, what lasting value could God have intended Moses to receive in those forty long years in such a radically different Midianite culture from his Egyptian background?
 
 
There are two significant possibilities – our Bible books of Job and Genesis.
 
Job,
by its language and content, appears to predate Israel's Exodus and Sinai covenant – predate Moses' call to lead his people.
 
 
Job himself lived in the land of Uz, the territory of Edom (Lam. 4:21) – the descendants of Esau, son of Isaac – which borders on the Midian of Jethro. Like Jethro, Job was not an Israelite.
 
 
Who wrote his book, and how did it come to be part of Israel's holy scriptures?
 
If we
believe that this book is really part of God's inspired written revelation – then its chapter which describes a fire-breathing monster as known to humanity must be integrated into our modern view of human history in Job's time.
"And the LORD said to Job: . . .
Out of his mouth go flaming torches; sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke, as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.
His breath kindles coals, and a flame comes forth from his mouth. . . .
. . . On earth there is not his like, a creature without fear.
He sees everything that is high; he is king over all the sons of pride."
Certainly not just a
croc's 'steamy breath'
as commonly said
Job 40:1;
41:19-21,
33-34.
 
Attempts to explain this description have varied from 'whale' to 'hippopotamus' to 'crocodile' with the latter being the more common identification, but this plays fast and loose with Holy Scripture, treating its statements merely as exaggerated allusions to steamy breath and reducing its reality to our present day perceptions. Surely, the similarity in God's description to the ancient stories of fire-breathing dragons/dinosaurs is more than simply a coincidence!
 
The
clear statement "His underparts are like sharp potsherds" is in direct contradiction of the crocodile image; crocodiles which were hunted* and traded in ancient Egypt (New Kingdom astronomical tomb paintings show a hero spearing a crocodile), which the Bible specifically says could not be done with this particular creature. So perhaps humility calls for an accommodation of our understanding if we believe that this really is sacred Scripture in its own context.
*Trigger, et al 1994:22
A
similar adjustment of our understanding is called for regarding the Genesis description of the Garden in Eden, for if it was symbolic or an exaggerated account of a special garden somewhere in Southern Mesopotamia as some Bible teachers do, then we face the dilemma of the use of known literal rivers diverging from its single drainage stream which is not true of any part of Mesopotamia at any stage. So it is wise to let the Bible itself, in its own context, conform our understanding, or we do not believe it!
 
Genesis,
rich with detail from long before Moses, has two elements in the structure of its text which point to the use of pre-existing material in Moses' inspired composition of this book – the toledot headings and the poetic rhythm word-sets (see below).
 
 
Where and how did this material come into his hands?
 
 
The toledot headings were the style used in clay tablets, very un-Egyptian, but very familiar to other cultures such as Midian from their contact with the use of the same in Canaanite and Sumerian clay-tablet writings. The word-rhythms sets draw their impact from the Canaanite semitic language rhythm, in which Midian also shared. Certainly, some of these later word-rhythm sets were passed on through the God-fearing individuals among Israel in Egypt, but the much older and often shorter sets probably came through the more stable source represented in Jethro the priest and his godly associates.
 
 
During the thirty-eight-year delay in the desert of Israel's migration, as the adults of that generation died out by God's judgment, Moses – literate, educated, useful to God and inspired – was certainly not idle. In these years the rich legacy of his forty years with Jethro, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, would have become material to a literary construction more wonderful than the Tabernacle at Sinai; the beginnings of Holy Scripture, unparalleled and forever the gift of God to His people in all generations!
– Hallelujah!
Praise God
that the bitter pill of voluntary exile, because Moses' very own people had distrusted him (Ex.2:14), brought him to a godly source whose benefits, by God's wisdom, still reach to us today!

 
The Genesis 12 Toledot Tablets See Restructured
Genesis Study Text
 
'toledot' = generations/history/genealogy/account (from תּולדה)
  1. Genesis 1:1 Sky and Land       
  2. Genesis 2:4 Man  
  3. Genesis 5:1 Adam  
  4. Genesis 6:9 Noah  
  5. Genesis 10:1 Sons of Noah  
  6. Genesis 11:10 Shem  
  7. Genesis 11:27 Terah  
  8. Genesis 25:12 Ishmael  
  9. Genesis 25:19 Isaac  
  10. Genesis 36:1 Esau  
  11. Genesis 36:9 Edom  
  12. Genesis 37:2 Jacob  
The Genesis
Word-Rhythms Sets
 
 
each oral transmission mnemonic – a 'parallelismus membrorum'
 
 
1. Genesis 1:27 Male and Female
2. Genesis 2:4 Sky and Land
3. Genesis 2:23 Woman
4. Genesis 3:14-15 God's Serpent-Decree
5. Genesis 3:16 God's Woman-Decree
6. Genesis 3:17-19 God's Man-Decree
7. Genesis 4:23-24 Lamech's Lament
8. Genesis 9:6 Human Responsibility
9. Genesis 9:25 Canaan's Servitude
10. Genesis 9:26-27 Shem and Japheth
11. Genesis 14:19-20 Melchizedek's Blessing
12. Genesis 16:11-12 God's Promise to Hagar
13. Genesis 24:60 Laban's Blessing of Rebekah
14. Genesis 25:23 God's Promise to Rebekah
15. Genesis 27:27-29 Isaac's Blessing of Jacob
16. Genesis 27:39-40 Isaac's Blessing of Esau
17. Genesis 48:15-16 Israel's Blessing of Joseph's sons
18. Genesis 48:20 Israel's Blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh
19. Genesis 49:2-27 Jacob's Blessing of his sons
 

The

Wisdom of Jethro
 
 
– At Mount Sinai –
 
 
"'...Moreover,
look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe,
and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.
And let them judge the people at all times.
Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you [Moses].
If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.'
 
  So Moses listened to the voice of [Jethro] his father-in-law and did all that he had said." Exodus 18:21-24.

Moses' Depression The Exodus Journey

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